cube

Company to exhibit 3-D printer for the home in Bozeman

The $1,299 Cube is a plastic jet printer that can produce objects up to a 5.5-inch cube. Its cartridges, which contain plastic instead of ink, can each produce 13 to 14 mid-sized objects, according to specs provided by the company. The device even prints over wi-fi, in case you feel like firing up your 3-D design software on the couch while watching television.

Unveiled at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show, the Cube will be exhibited in 25 cities around the country, including San Francisco and New York. Local nonprofit HATCHFest played a role in getting the Cube demo’d here in Bozeman, according to the release. Check out a CNET video review from the electronics show below.

The Cube team will show off their gadget Friday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at CTA Architects & Engineers, 411 E. Main St., #101, in Bozeman.

Montana Opticom proposes fiber-optic line from Belgrade to Big Sky

Here’s to catching up on old topics. Montana Opticom, the ISP that in 2010 received $64 million in federal stimulus money to lay fiber-optic cable for broadband in the western portion of Gallatin County, recently applied for permission to bury some of that cable on forest service land.

According to the Gallatin National Forest, Opticom proposed installing fiber optics between Big Sky and Belgrade, which includes a roughly 15-mile portion of national forest land along Highways 191 and 84.

The line would be installed within the existing, disturbed right-of-way along those highways. You can read about the details of the proposal here and check out the scoping documents here.

The work is expected to take about 45 days, according to the forest.

The comment period on the proposal closed March 30. I have a call in to the forest to see what the next steps are and to see if there was any significant objection raised in the public comments.

On another Opticom front, you can check out the company on the ProPublica Recovery Tracker. Details on the roughly $32 million loan portion of the Opticom funding can be found here and details of the grant portion can be found here. Including with the ProPublica data is a list of the vendors connected to Opticom’s stimulus funding.

According to Recovery.gov, out of the $64,127,322 awarded, Opticom has so far accepted $17,461,128 and spent $14,239,193. That’s as of the end of Q4 2011.

Facebook buying Instagram

In what will undoubtedly be the biggest social media story of the day, Facebook announced that it is buying the popular photo-sharing service Instagram for $1 billion.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the news on his Facebook timeline, of course. In the post, Zuckerberg writes that Facebook needs to be “mindful about keeping and building on Instagram’s strengths and features rather than just trying to integrate everything into Facebook.” Accordingly, Instagram will be kept independent of Facebook, he said.

In his own blog post, Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom wrote:

It’s important to be clear that Instagram is not going away. We’ll be working with Facebook to evolve Instagram and build the network. We’ll continue to add new features to the product and find new ways to create a better mobile photos experience.
In its formal press release, Facebook said the deal is expected to close this quarter.

According to a report on AllThingsD, San Francisco-based Instagram had 30 million users on the iPhone before releasing an Android app last week, which quickly drew in a million more users.

ICYMI: Montana State has strong social media kung-fu

Reporter Gail Schontzler filed this story a few days ago, after MSU’s assistant director of Web communications, Jake Dolan, made a presentation to the University Council on all the ways the university is using social networks to keep up with students and to keep in touch with potential students.

My favorite part of Gail’s story:

Dolan asked how many of the assembled deans, MSU employee representatives and administrators use Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest and other social networking sites. President Waded Cruzado laughed and said, “Notice, I didn’t raise my hand once!”
Read the whole story at the link above to get a snapshot of some of the university’s social networking numbers. They are impressive, and in my opinion, it’s good to see MSU taking advantage of new mediums.

* Disclaimer: I graduated from MSU and have worked there in many capacities over the years.

‘Uncommon Bond’ a new standard of quality for Chronicle video

In case you missed it over the weekend, here is a video by Chronicle photographer Mike Greener. It accompanied a story by Amanda Ricker in Saturday’s paper about a donkey and gander on a farm in south Bozeman who have become friends since the gander’s mate was killed a few weeks ago.

Greener spent quite a lot of time — by our past standards — shooting footage, recording and tweaking his audio and then fine-tuning the whole project in Final Cut. I think the result is leaps and bounds beyond what we have done in the past in terms of complexity and quality.

(And of course, by the things we have done in the past, I mean the videos I have produced in the past, since I have been the one producing videos so far. Did I mention I have no formal training as a photographer, filmmaker or video editor?)

I look forward to seeing the other projects Mr. Greener turns out, and his accomplice, Chronicle photographer Nick Wolcott. They’re both on the verge of getting some neat new video equipment, so it should be good. By the way, if you’d like to see more projects Greener did before coming to the Chronicle, be sure to check out his blog.

The small matter of fonts

Let’s talk about fonts for a minute. I’m in the middle of redesign work for a couple of sites, including the Chronicle, which is going to get a facelift in a couple months. The question I have for you is this one: serifs or sans-serifs?

You font nerds out there — who also happen to read the paper online — already know that we use a font stack that looks something like this:

font-family: ‘Helvetica Neue’,Helvetica,sans-serif;
This means that the majority of our viewers on OS X will see us in some form of Helvetica since that font is installed on Apple computers out of the box. Many on Windows platforms will view us in Arial or some such sans-serif.

The stylesheet is set to give the headlines a line height of 1.125 ems, which I feel is a good line height for that font at most headline sizes. Headlines are rendered in #29527a, in case you wanted to know the precise color we use.

For me, right now, that means the top story headline on the Chronicle site winds up looking something like the picture on the left. Your browser and OS’s rendering of the headline may vary.

The real question at hand is whether to move to a serif headline font. And if so, which one to use. Most news websites out there us a serif font in some capacity, whether it’s the body text or the headlines. Serifs just make the type look newsier, and I think we’re going in that direction for the Chronicle (newsier font, that is, for all you jokers who would say that we’re headed toward newsier content).

Plus, I think a font change shows the reader that this is a significant visual update. It will cue them in to be on the lookout for other changes made to the site without us having to explicitly tell them what has changed — at least not in some sort of lightbox popup or modal dialogue or what have you.

My options for a serif font have so far been pared down to two: Georgia and PT Serif.

Georgia

Georgia is great because everybody has it already. It’s installed by default on both Windows and Macs, meaning the site’s going to look similar on both platforms. You can read all about Georgia here, including the fact that it was designed specifically for the computer screen, which makes it a very suitable typeface for digital applications.

The downsides to Georgia are that everybody uses it and that it displays numbers so that most of them hang beneath the baseline. This can look weird.

PT Serif, on the other hand, is available from Google and other online font purveyors for free. It has a little bit different feel that Georgia, and it’s a tad bit more readable at smaller sizes. Plus, it doesn’t hang the numbers beneath the baseline. (I have converted the headlines of this blog into PT Serif for the moment.)

Downsides are that it would either have to be pulled in from Google or Typekit or it would need to be embedded on the site. The first option slows down loading of the page and might hit snags on older browsers. The second option is just another thing to add to my to-do list.

So, that’s all I have to say about fonts right now. We’re going to serifs, but I don’t know exactly when or exactly which font. I welcome your input and suggestions for other potential fonts that I could look at. Leave your suggestions in the comments or get in touch with me at [email protected]